Parents often ask Montessori teachers why their children are cleaning the school. Children in Montessori early childhood classrooms are learning how to wash dishes, sweep the floor, dust, and even polish silver. Can't the school afford to hire their own cleaning staff?
The answer has nothing to do with keeping the classroom clean. In fact, teachers often have to go back after school and "re-clean" what the children have cleaned. The reason we teach them these "practical life" activities is all about aiding the child's development.
A mom I know on Instagram (big shout out to @montessoriinmotion) posted a video of her daughter that illustrates some of the benefits of practical life activities. It's just over one-minute long and is so rich in things to notice that I asked her permission to write about it here. Watch the video on your own first and then read on (and yes, she is sporting the matching Maitri Learning blue flower apron and mat).
Learning the visual appearance of each letter in English and the sounds that each letter makes is an essential beginning step towards literacy. In the Montessori approach, we do a huge array of spoken language activities with the children to prepare them for writing and reading (see our many other blog posts on spoken language for more information). But we have one primary tool for teaching children the shapes of each letter and their individual sounds: the sandpaper letters.
Note: If you don’t own a set of sandpaper letters, you can make them yourself using our downloadable template.
As shown in the video, the general approach to the sandpaper letters is to choose 3 or 4 letters (depending on the interests and abilities of the child), show them how to trace a letter, say its sound, and then say a few words that feature that sound.
Montessori teacher Angela Ma (Follow the Child Montessori, Raleigh, NC) has written a lovely picture book for you to share with your children. Ms. Ma offers a simple yet elegant explanation (with gorgeous illustrations) of why so many of us are home-bound during this pandemic. She has made it available free for anyone to download.
Here's what Ms. Ma has to say about her motivation for writing this story:
"I wrote this social story, complete with a drawing of my own adorable family, to offer a simple explanation for the reason we're all staying-at-home. Presenting a perspective of helpfulness and community empowers our young children to feel a sense of agency and connection. When we enter back into the community on the other side of this global experience, the opportunity to focus on social solidarity may likely have a more positive and protective impact on our children’s sense of security and well-being. I hope it is helpful to families who are looking for ways to support their children through this experience."
Print it out, bind it with ribbon, and read often! Then, inspire your children to make their own books about things that are important to them. Win-win!